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Macron travels to New Caledonia to solve the crisis on volatile territory

Macron travels to New Caledonia to solve the crisis on volatile territory

French President Emmanuel Macron embarked on a flight to New Caledonia Tuesday night (21 May) to address an ongoing crisis following a violent insurrection on the French territory. The archipelago, over 15,000 kilometres from mainland France, has become a top priority for the government after a week of violent protests left six people dead. The protests, between pro-independence supporters and French loyalists, were triggered by the French National Assembly’s vote to allow all citizens who have been living in New Caledonia for over 10 years to elect the local legislature. Voting in these elections has previously been reserved for citizens who settled in the archipelago before 1998 or their descendants. Pro-independence forces argue that expanding the electorate would further reduce the influence of the indigenous Kanak population, whose share of the population has decreased since France took control of the territory over 170 years ago. Proponents of the reform argue it is a democratic necessity, noting that current rules exclude even certain New Caledonia-born citizens from voting. 

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Bonn Dialogue Meeting calls for the theme "Climate Change, Peace and Security" to be included in the agenda of COP29

Bonn Dialogue Meeting calls for the theme "Climate Change, Peace and Security" to be included in the agenda of COP29

A dialogue meeting on the topic: “Climate Change Peace and Security – COP 29 and Beyond” was held at the Bonn University Club in Bonn, Germany, on Friday, 3 May 2024. Representatives of various state-parties to the Climate Convention and of the UN Climate Secretariat, joined participants from around 30 academic institutions, think tanks and civil society organisations to review the work done on this topic at COP28 in Dubai in December and chart a way forward for ensuring the continuation of the process at the COP29 meeting in Baku in November. At the opening session, the meeting was addressed by HE Hana al Hashemi, the United Arab Emirates COP28 Chief negotiator, HE Nigar Arpadarai, the UN High-Level Champion for COP29 in Azerbaijan, and Mr Markus Hicken, Director for Energy Foreign Policy, Climate and Security at the German Federal Foreign Office. Also speaking at the opening session was Ms Maria Paloma Noriega Jalil, representing the UN Climate Secretariat. There followed an intensive one-day of discussions on the current state of the COP process, and the on-going debate on the nexus of Climate Change, Peace and Security within the COP process. The meeting was addressed by world-class experts from leading think tanks and academic institutions, including Chatham House, the German Council on Foreign Relations, ADELPHI, the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, Heidelberg University, The Hertie School in Berlin, amongst others. The meeting positively assessed the steps taken in COP28 in Dubai in December, including the inclusion of climate change, peace and security as a theme of the meeting, the holding for the first time of a day on peace in the deliberations, and the “COP28 Declaration on Climate, Relief, Recovery and Peace”. It was felt that it was important that this momentum will not be lost, and similar actions are also included as part of the COP29 meeting in Baku in November. Whilst it was recognised that the nexus between Climate Change Peace and Security was now widely recognised internationally, inserting this in the COP process remained an issue under discussion. During the meeting three aspects of the Climate Change, Peace and Security agenda were highlighted, namely water scarcity; food insecurity; and landmine contamination and environmental degradation resulting from conflict. Participants called on the State Parties to the Climate Convention meeting in the context of COP29 to ensure proper discussion and action on these themes that affect millions of people and thousands of communities across the world. In his concluding remarks at the end of the dialogue meeting, HE Ambassador Elshad Iskanderov, advisor to the COP 29 presidency, said that Azerbaijan was positive to the idea of having Climate Change Peace and Security as a theme at COP29. Ambassador Iskanderov reminded that the decision to hold COP29 in Baku was taken unanimously, and was an unprecedented confidence-building measure in the context of the South Caucasus.  Azerbaijan wanted to build on what had already been achieved in Dubai. He said that these decisions did not depend on Azerbaijan alone since COP was a multilateral process where the 198 state parties had the final say. Ambassador Iskanderov underlined the readiness of the Azerbaijani COP29 presidency to continue the dialogue on this issue with academia, think tanks and civil society as the preparations for COP 29 progress. He highlighted the fact that the discussion needs to focus not only on the potential that climate change will fuel more conflict and insecurity, but also on the impact of conflicts on climate change and environmental degradation Concluding the Bonn Dialogue Meeting, Dr Dennis Sammut, Director of LINKS Europe Foundation, who together with Candid Foundation and ReStart Initiative hosted the Bonn event, said that a lot of work needs to be done between now and November, and particularly the dialogue with the COP Troika countries, the UN Climate Secretariat and interested state parties needs to be continued and intensified. As a concrete step, LINKS Europe will set up an ad hoc working group with other interested non-state actors, to ensure that the conversation continues, and tangible results are achieved.
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Borrell speaks about global changes and challenges

Borrell speaks about global changes and challenges

EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, delivered an important policy speech on Friday 3 May during which he did a wide tour d'horizon of the current global situation and the challenges it flags up for Europe and for the world. Speaking in an academic setting, delivering the Dahrendorf Lecture at St Antony's College Oxford, Borrell spoke of a world where there is much more confrontation than co-operation, where there is more polarity and less multilateralism, Borrell spoke about the diminishing role of the United States as world hegemon and the rise of China. "We, Europeans, wanted to create in our neighbourhood a ring of friends. Instead of that, what we have today is a ring of fire. A ring of fire coming from the Sahel to the Middle East, the Caucasus and now in the battlefields of Ukraine", the High Representative said: Speaking on Russia, Borrell said  "Under Putin’s leadership, Russia has returned to the imperialist understanding of the world. Imperial Russia from the Tsar times and the Soviet empire times have been rehabilitated by Putin dreaming of a former size and influence." "It was Georgia in 2008. It was Crimea in 2014. We did not see, or we did not want to see, the evolution of Russia under Putin’s watch. Even though Putin himself had warned us at the Munich Security Conference in 2007. It is important to re-read what Putin said in 2007 at the Munich [Security] Conference that I am afraid that nobody wanted to hear or to understand." Borell described Putin as "an existential threat". In his speech Borell dwelt on the wars in Ukraine and in Gaza. "Now, we have two wars. And we, Europeans, are not prepared for the harshness of the world." The High Representative said that the way of living of the Europeans, "this best combination of political freedom, economic prosperity and social cohesion that the humanity has never been able to invent, is certainly in danger. And in order to face these challenges, I think that we have to work on three dimensions: Principles, Cooperation and Strength."
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Pope calls for an end to the spiral of violence in the Middle East

Pope calls for an end to the spiral of violence in the Middle East

Pope Francis made a heartfelt appeal on Sunday (14 April), calling for a stop to any actions that may fuel the "spiral of violence" in the Middle East that risk plunging the region into an even wider war. The Pope's appeal follows last night massive drone and missile attack by Iran against Israel in retribution for the earlier Israeli attack on the Iranian diplomatic mission in Damascus. Most of the drones and missiles were intercepted and destroyed by Israeli, US, UK, Jordanian and other forces. The Pope said he is following with "prayer and concern, even sorrow" the news arriving in recent hours about the worsening situation in Israel following the intervention by Iran. He emphasised that nobody should threaten the existence of others, and that instead all nations should "take the side of peace," helping Israelis and Palestinians to live in two States, side by side, in security. He added, "it is their deep and legitimate desire, and it is their right! Two neighboring States." The Pope renewed his appeal for a ceasefire in Gaza and that the path of negotiation be pursued "with determination." Recalling the suffering of the population in Gaza, "plunged into a humanitarian catastrophe," he called for every effort to alleviate their suffering. He prayed that "the hostages kidnapped months ago be released!"  The Pope concluded: “So much suffering! Let us pray for peace. No more war, no more attacks, no more violence! Yes to dialogue and yes to peace!”
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EU and US make a generous financial pledge to Armenia as they affirm their support for its sovereignty, democracy, territorial integrity, and socio-economic resilience

EU and US make a generous financial pledge to Armenia as they affirm their support for its sovereignty, democracy, territorial integrity, and socio-economic resilience

The European Union and the United States have made a generous financial pledge to Armenia and reaffirmed their support for its sovereignty, democracy, territorial integrity, and socio-economic resilience. President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, EU High Representative/Vice-President, Josep Borrell, Secretary of State of the United States of America, Antony Blinken, USAID Administrator Samantha Power, and Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, met today, April 5, 2024 in Brussels to reaffirm support for Armenia's sovereignty, democracy, territorial integrity, and socio-economic resilience. The statement concluded by saying that "A prosperous, sovereign, and democratic Armenia that develops its own partnerships and freely sets its own course will contribute to regional stability and prosperity."
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Blinken and Von der Leyen speak to Aliyev ahead of their meeting with Pashinyan

Blinken and Von der Leyen speak to Aliyev ahead of their meeting with Pashinyan

Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, is in Brussels, where he is expected to meet on Friday afternoon (5 April) with US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken and European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen. The unusual format of the tripartite meeting is being billed as "the joint EU-US-Armenia high-level meeting in support of Armenia’s resilience". There has been intense speculation about the purpose of the meeting, and the likely outcomes. Azerbaijan has seen it as an attempt to encourage Armenia to take a more hardline position in its dealings with it, including in the current negotiations of an Armenia-Azerbaijan peace treaty. Russia has been vocal in criticising the meeting, seeing it as yet another western attempt at snatching Armenia away from the Russian orbit. Other countries, such as Turkey and Iran have also been critical of the three way meeting. Behind the scenes there have been a lot of work going on in order to calm down neves, especially in Baku, and ahead of the meeting, both Secretary of State Blinken and President von der Leyen, spoke to Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev.
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4 April is International Landmine Awareness Day

4 April is International Landmine Awareness Day

On 8 December 2005, the UN General Assembly declared that 4 April of each year shall be observed as the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. This initiative continues to be supported by countries, organisations, and communities around the world. This year, the theme is “Protecting Lives. Building Peace.” — reminds us of the need to safeguard those at particular risk, including people living with disabilities, women, children and other vulnerable groups. This is a particularly poignant theme in the South Caucasus where the problem of landmines is acute, and the region is now identified as among the ones with the highest contamination of landmines in the world. In his message on the occasion of this year’s International Landmine Awareness Day, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: “Even after the fighting ends, these deadly devices can contaminate communities for decades to come, posing a daily and deadly danger to women, men and children alike, and blocking vital humanitarian and development assistance.” In his message, the UN Secretary-General urged Member States to ratify and fully implement the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. LINKS Europe Statement on International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action 2024 In a statement from its offices in The Hague, LINKS Europe Foundation, said that on a daily basis, people are becoming victims of landmines in different parts of the South Caucasus. International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action provides us with an opportunity to focus on this problem and ensure that it does not simply become just another daily inconvenience. We regret that as yet the international community has failed to recognise the enormity of the problem, and to respond accordingly.
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Killed whilst trying to help the people of Gaza avoid starvation

Killed whilst trying to help the people of Gaza avoid starvation

There has been widespread international condemnation after an Israeli attack killed seven humanitarian workers in Gaza. Three British citizens, John Chapman, 57, James Henderson, 33, and James Kirby, 47, were among the seven World Central Kitchen (WCK) workers killed in Monday's strike. As well as the three Britons, Australian national Lalzawmi Frankcom, Polish national Damian Sobol, Palestinian Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutahas and US-Canadian citizen Jacob Flickinger, were also killed. Humanitarian aid to Gaza has been plunged into doubt after WCK, a key provider of aid to the Strip, suspended its operations in the region. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the deaths "appalled" him. Israel said the strike was "unintended". The British nationals, all part of WCK's security team, were travelling with a convoy that had just unloaded more than 100 tonnes of much-needed food aid brought from overseas, according to the charity. All three vehicles in the convoy were hit by an Israeli air strike while leaving a warehouse in Deir al-Balah, south of Gaza City. US President Joe Biden said he was "outraged and heartbroken" by the WCK workers' deaths. He said Israel had "not done enough to protect civilians" in an emphatic shift from his previous call that Israel "must do more" to protect the lives of aid workers in Gaza.
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Too little, too late, but Arabs hope UNSC resolution dents US-Israel relations

Too little, too late, but Arabs hope UNSC resolution dents US-Israel relations

The situation in Palestine continues to cast a shadow over the Ramadan festivities in the Arabian Peninsula and across the Arab and Moslem worlds. On Monday (26 March), the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) finally adopted resolution 2728, demanding an immediate ceasefire for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which started on 10 March, leading to a “lasting sustainable ceasefire”. The resolution, which was put forward by the Council’s elected members, also demands the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and that the parties comply with their obligations under international law in relation to all persons they detain. Resolution 2728 emphasises the need to expand humanitarian assistance and reinforce the protection of civilians in the Gaza Strip. It also reiterates the Council’s demand to lift “all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance at scale”. Arab and Muslim governments have generally welcomed the adoption of UNSC resolution 2728. But amongst a wary public in the GCC and beyond, there is widespread frustration and cynicism, and many consider it as being too little, too late. Palestinian envoy to the UN, Riyad Mansour, speaking in New York yesterday, reflected this mood, saying it had taken “six months, over 100,000 Palestinians killed and maimed, 2 million displaced, and famine for this Council to finally demand an immediate ceasefire.” Palestinians have been killed “in their homes, in the streets, in hospitals and ambulances, in shelters, and even in tents,” he added. “This must come to an end now. There can be no justification for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.” Acceptance of any justification for such crimes would be a renunciation of humanity and destroy the rule of international law beyond repair, Mansour said.
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EU: "There can be no peace without universal access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation for all"

EU: "There can be no peace without universal access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation for all"

"There can be no peace without universal access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation for all." This was stated by the European Union in a statement on the occasion of World Water Day on 21 March. The statement issued by EU High Representative, Josep Borrell and the EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, adds that "the health and prosperity of people and the planet rely on the stability of the global water cycle." Climate change, biodiversity loss, unsustainable management and pollution have an impact on water resources across the globe. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), 1 of out 4 people in the world still lack access to safely managed drinking water. Almost half of the global population lack access to safely managed sanitation. As water scarcity intensifies, increased competition for dwindling freshwater resources threatens stability among and within nations through conflicts, displacement, or migration. And water is also far too often used as a weapon of war. There can be no peace without universal access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation for all. This year's global theme for World Water Day focuses on leveraging “water for peace”. Water resource management and transboundary water cooperation are powerful tools for conflict prevention and peacekeeping. The European Union is working to improve access to water and/or a sanitation facility to 70 million individuals by 2030. It is also working to protect, conserve and restore water-related ecosystems. Building on the outcome of the 2023 UN Water Conference, the EU encourages joint efforts towards effective multilateral governance. Water, including the water-security nexus, needs to be a priority topic across multilateral processes. Water resilience is essential to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to fight climate change.